Security for transit

By Vanessa Morton

In an effort to create a more efficient and safe rail system, the Chicago Transit Authority recently unveiled its newly installed security cameras at various train stations across the city.

CTA President Forrest Claypool joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy and other city officials on Nov. 21 to announce that the installation of 1,735 new state-of-the-art security cameras at 78 CTA rail stations was complete. At a press conference at the Clinton Green Line Station, the officials took turns praising the security the cameras provide for all transit riders.

“In an attempt to modernize the CTA, we have brought more stations, more security and more service to the public,” Emanuel said. “And it’s a comprehensive approach to give people a reliable experience, so [that] they can get from their home to their place of work or from neighborhood to neighborhood. This is one of the key economic advantages in Chicago.”

The unveiling of the new cameras is the result of a fast-track initiative that the CTA introduced on June 20.

Claypool announced that the transit agency planned to double the number of security cameras, while joining forces with the CPD to enhance the security

of passengers.

As of June, approximately 1,500 cameras were already installed at several stations. Claypool said the administration’s project was six weeks ahead of schedule with the cameras added over a five-month period. A total of 3,000 cameras will be installed at all 144 stations by the end of the year, and the remaining stations that need the cameras are fully equipped to receive them.

“These new cameras have been instrumental in helping solve a number of crimes since we began installing them in June—including three murders that took place away from CTA property, as well as a string of serial robberies,” Claypool said. “This is just what we envisioned when we set out to fast-track the installation of these additional cameras at our rail stations.”

Between 10 and 30 security cameras will be strategically placed to monitor activities at each station. Claypool said the cameras currently installed have already led to a dozen arrests.

According to a CTA Cameras Assisting Law Enforcement Summary report, in the last five months, there have been 153 instances in which CTA officials have pulled images from the surveillance cameras to assist CPD crime investigations. With help of the new equipment, the pulled images have led the police to arrest 47 individuals, and of those, at least 23 offenders have been identified as multiple offenders.

Commending Claypool and the transit agency, McCarthy said their commitment to provide resources has been overwhelming. He added that in the past months, CPD officials have been talking about pushing down on accountability with city authority and the CTA has been helpful along the way.

“These cameras are a critical tool for the [CPD] to help keep riders safe and bring criminals to justice,” McCarthy said. “Through close collaboration with the CTA, we will continue to work to decrease crime and provide the greatest level of safety on our city’s public transportation system.”

Though the goal is aimed at preventing crime in the city and live feeds are accessible to the 911 Call Center and each police district, the cameras have primarily been used after a crime was committed to look for evidence. Claypool said as of now, the idea of constant live feed surveillance is not possible.

“But, obviously, you can’t have police sitting there, monitoring 24/7, looking at cameras the whole time,” he said. “These are primarily for deterrent, and I think, eventually, the bad guys are going to figure out the cameras are out there.”

As questions were raised in regard to riders still not feeling safe—because of how the cameras are utilized—the mayor stepped in to defend the federally funded surveillance project and said he believed that the cameras would not only assist in solving crimes but will also help prevent them.

“It’s not meant for one thing, [and] while these are just finally installed, I don’t expect with a flip of a switch to change this perception,” Emanuel said. “We don’t just rest on our laurels: we make that investment to make sure all the people that rely on [public transit], can rely on a system that allows them to get to and from where they are going. People will more often see the CTA as a transportation answer, rather than something to avoid.”